Sunday, December 4, 2016

Books Make the Best Gifts! Support an Indie Author Today...

Pretty Dolls - Young Readers Picture Book

Pretty eyes and pretty hair, we're the best dolls anywhere.
If you were a pretty doll, you'd be up here standing tall...

Gracie is the purple-eyed, one-armed, spiky-haired doll who has won the snuggly arms and heart of Tasha. Only Emily-Nicole, the prettiest porcelain doll in Tasha's collection, will have none of it. What Tasha doesn't know is that when the lights go out, the doll wars begin....Pretty Dolls is Winner of the Reader Views and Character Building Counts Best Children's Book of the Year and featured on TeachingBooks.net and StoryCub.org.





Saturday, November 19, 2016

Ten Prompts for NaNoWriMo!!

Okay, guys!  It's officially NaNoWriMo and the month is getting away from us!  Next week is Thanksgiving and before you know it...

You know where I'm going with this.  If you are finding yourself lacking motivation to get started, here are ten prompts to help pen the first chapter for that award-winning, best-seller:

Ten Prompts for NaNoWriMo

1) A C.E.O. gives a keynote address at a convention when overtaken by a panic attack.

2) A passenger discovers an unattended carryon when flying over the ocean.

3) A book club hostess receives a threatening anonymous note at her own home.

4) A disgruntled claustrophobe finds himself locked in an elevator at work overnight.

5) A weary taxi driver picks up a sinister stranger contemplating suicide who wants to drive around town first.

6) A couple celebrates their anniversary at a cozy restaurant when a mysterious bouquet of flowers is brought to the table.

7) A daughter cleans out her parents’ attic and discovers an urn of ashes.

8) A valedictorian gets arrested for shoplifting right before graduation.

9) An unappreciated secretary calls in sick and goes shopping where she runs into her boss’s wife with another man.

10)  A first-day-on-the-job nanny takes the children to the park where she loses the master key only to have a burglar find it.


Remember, the first rule to writing that novel is No Excuses!  I have to remind myself of that everyday.  NaNoWriMo is a great time to get started, so write on!



Saturday, November 5, 2016

Thrills and Chills Book Club

I’ve never been a fan of the traditional book club for one very good reason – I like to read what I want to read when I want to read it.  I’m kind of stubborn that way.  Perhaps it’s because I was an English major in college and then pursued a master’s in English Education.  The last thing I want in life is someone telling me what to read, when it is due, and to hear everyone's profound opinions about it laced with pressure to share my own.

And there are other reasons…what if everyone hates the book I choose?  Or there is some know-it-all literary blowhard who dominates the conversation?  Or I don't like the wine. Or worse – what if they don't serve wine!?!?

That's it.  After all, reading is a solitary pursuit and if I want to read the latest James Patterson in lieu of Pride and Prejudice, then that is my prerogative.  I don't need to defend my literary choices.  Because frankly, they don’t always deserve defending.  (Secret Alert: I love the occasional detritus diversion as much as the next person!)  Problem solved - I was, am, and always will be anti-book club!  Until recently…

I picked up Paula Hawkin's The Girl on the Train and devoured it.  It was a punch to the gut and I needed to talk to someone about it.  I wanted to pour over the discussion questions.  I wanted to revisit, discuss, and analyze this juicy, twisted plot.  Rachel, Anna, and Megan were delicious characters that merited conversation.  Help!  I needed a book club and fast!  So I created one with the help of Meetup.com entitled: Thrills and Chills Book Club.

The description is as follows: 

I love to read suspense and thriller books.  You know - the kind that make you double check your doors and keep the lights on.  That’s pretty much all I read. Sooooo, I thought it was time to start a book club with likeminded women who love suspense and thrillers as much as I.  Some of my favorite authors are Harlan Coben, Lee Child, J.T. Ellison, Stieg Larsson, Gillian Flynn, Thomas Harris, Mary Kubica, Karin Slaughter, and of course Stephen King.  If you’re looking for a book club that chooses books that make the hairs on your neck stand up, this Book Club Meetup Group is for you!  





The upshot is I love my book club.  Here’s why…it’s a stress free zone for five simple reasons:

*We meet regularly while allowing enough time to actually finish the book.  Every six weeks is perfect.  Life is complicated and busy so we don’t persecute those who don’t finish.  It happens.  M.W.D.H. (Members Who Don’t Read) can still add to the discussion and stimulate conversation.

*We have enough members to make it interesting yet intimate.  Eight to ten is ideal and demographic diversity allows for richer discussion.  Mix it up with age, sex, experience, marital status, etc.

*Book Choices – We take turns choosing the books.  It’s democratic and allows members the opportunity to read a variety of authors while being introduced to new ones.

*Hosting duties should be rotated and stress-free.  You don’t need to be Martha Stewart to pull off a successful book club.  Snacks and beverages should be yum but simple.  Note: It’s okay to serve store bought items if baking isn’t your jam.  Another idea is to hold the book club at a local restaurant.  Just make sure the venue isn't too loud and you speak to the manager beforehand.

*Assign/rotate the discussion leader role to those who feel comfortable acting in this capacity.  Some people don’t feel comfortable leading the discussion, and that’s okay.  Book club shouldn’t feel like a graduate course.    

You can’t beat a good read and good friends!  A book club is one of the best ways to converge these two treasures and rekindle your literary spirit.  Whether your book club likes romance, science fiction, or the latest crowd-pleaser – attend regularly, read, and participate with gusto!  After all, books and people who relish them allow our worlds to grow larger and our problems smaller.  A book club can open the door to new friendships and fresh ideas – so proceed with caution.

Remember what Louis May Alcott said, “She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Students Acting Slothy? Teach Them Something Gothy!

The honeymoon is officially over, and it's about this time that students reveal subtle symptoms of slothy sluggishness.  Consequently, around late September/early October, I reach deep in my literacy bag of tricks for my go-to Gothic Literature unit.  Reading spine-tingling excerpts from DraculaFrankenstein, or Edgar Allan Poe are all but guaranteed to reignite enthusiasm from my students and possibly even the most reluctant of readers who have yet to reveal their literary chops.  (My hope is, in keeping with the theme, they are merely keeping me in suspense!)




That said, before plunging into the dark world of castles, chambers, and creepy cloisters, students require background information on Gothic Literature itself.  It is at this time we examine five basic elements of Gothic Literature, which I have classified into the following categories:


5 Elements of Gothic Literature

1) Elements of Superstition
  • Presence of ghosts, vampires, etc.
  • Unexplained sounds, sights, occurrences
  • Eerie atmosphere
  • Mysterious tone adds to building of tension

2) Emotions and Passions
  • Emotion surpasses rationality
  • Spells of hysteria, lust, and anxiety
  • Frequent crying and screaming
  • Detailed sensory description revealing characters’ passions
  • Characters experience terror and hysteria due to miasmic atmosphere


3) Broken Families
  • Families are often broken, incestuous, or murderous
  • Women subject to lustful wrongdoings 
  • Male characters are tyrannical
  • Women depicted as damsels in distress
  • Family unit confining, from which characters must escape

4) Eerie, mysterious setting
  • Claustrophobic, dark venues such as an old castle, mansion, or abbey
  • Places of fear and dread that portray the world as deteriorating
  • Desperate, dark ruined scenery
  • Surrounding area is dismal and rotting, often adding a haunting flavor of impending doom


5) Distinctive Characters
  • Characters are lonely, isolated, and oppressed
  • Presence of a tyrannical villain 
  • Action revolves around an unrequited love, or illicit love affair 
  • A vendetta or vengeance is a prominent theme

After my students are fully inducted into the world of Gothic Literature, it's time for them to write their own stories.  For inspiration, I offer some creepy music, telling them to listen at their own risk.  (Note to Blog Reader: Play at your own risk!)




Assignment: Write a Gothic Story...

The requirements are as follows:
  • Setting must be a large old house or graveyard
  • An unexplainable, scary event occurs in the house or graveyard 
  • Presence of the supernatural, such as a ghost, vampire, or werewolf
  • Unexplained phenomenon, such as doors slamming shut or lights turning on/off by themselves
  • Highly emotional characters who cry and scream
  • Implementation of Gothic symbols, such as a staircase, shadows, or a full moon.  

With a little inspiration from the darker works of the literary canon, students can't help but get their Goth on.  Whether you are a teacher, writer, or simply have a nagging nostalgia for Manic Panic, it's the perfect time to reach inside YOUR creepy bag of tricks and write your own Gothic tale.  



For more literary Goth inspiration, go to Kimberly's product store at:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Celebrate the Freedom to Read!!

Do you know it's Banned Books Week?

According to the American Library Association, here is a listing of ten classic books that are subject to being banned in American schools.  How many have you read?  Pick up a banned book this week and celebrate the freedom to read!!




1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

2. The Catcher in the Rye

3. To Kill a Mockingbird

4. Bridge to Terabithia

5. The Lord of the Flies

6. Of Mice and Men

7. The Color Purple

8. Harry Potter Series

9. Slaughterhouse Five

10. The Bluest Eye

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Midsouth SCBWI Conference

I had a wonderful time (as always) at the Midsouth SCBWI conference this weekend.  An added bonus was winning an Honorable Mention in the Picture Book Category!!  Thank you Midsouth for the inspirational sessions, camaraderie, and sharing the kid lit writing spirit.   



Sunday, September 4, 2016

10 Not So Cringey Self-Promotion Ideas

Confession: No word gives me more angst than the boastful, hyphenated noun “self-promotion.”  I find the humble brag unsavory, so the thought of soliciting book sales from my middle school crush on Facebook is downright creepy.  Moreover, prowling around on social media websites in search of new friends and followers is a complete time suck.

“That’s it.  Self-promotion isn’t for me,” I confided to an author friend the night at my first book release party.  Biting into a salmon mousse canapé, she smirked amusingly - as if she knew so much better.  (Spoiler Alert: She did!)

Not wanting to rain on my cutesy appetizer-filled book parade, she later called to readjust my oh-so-naive and erroneous ways: “Author can not live by canapé alone.  You wanted to get into this racket.  Own the angst and sell yourself like a Gold Rush harlot!”

Touché.  Self-promotion is fraught with the cringiest of awkward moments, but my more experienced comrade was right.  Combing the social media circuit in search of friends, followers, and readers isn’t just necessary; it’s an integral part of the average author’s day.  I consoled myself with one small, comforting thought:  I can at least be smart about it.

Smart is always easier said than done.  Nonetheless, through a steady upswing of sales, a myriad of book signings, and more hours on social media than I care to admit, I managed to snag some amazing opportunities – all thanks to shameless self-promotion.  Never, for instance, did I think I would interview on an NBC morning show, speak to a room full of two hundred people, or have a tiny pigtailed fan beg me to write a sequel (which, of course, is the best accolade an author can ask for)!

I’ve made peace with self-promotion as a necessary evil that perhaps can’t be cured, but most certainly treated.  Furthermore, when played right, self-promotion can have a resounding ROI - Return on Investment when guided by a few rules:

Rule #1: Fortify your brand with a basic media kit.  The key essentials include an author website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, and some eye-catching business cards.  Invest in a quality headshot taken by a professional photographer that can be used for your website and various promo ops.

Rule #2 – Always show gratitude and be professional – no matter what!  If no one shows up for a book signing, write a gracious thank you note to your host.  Ditto for author presentations.  Speak to your audience, no matter how meager the turnout, as though they are the V.I.P.’s of the world.  Hyper-prepare and be professional at all times, especially online.  It may be tempting to post snarky political comments or an old risqué college pic, but you are bound to offend someone – possibly an ardent agent or esteemed editor.  Don’t! Do! It!

Rule #3 – Choose wisely.  Promotion opportunities, especially ones with an excessive price tag, should be vetted carefully.  Book marketers and publicists will haggle you 24/7 with promises to make you the next Stephenie Meyer, only to drain you emotionally and financially.  Opt for affordable opportunities with a high ROI.

To that end, below are ten smart, economical, and (practically) cringe-less ways to promote yourself, your brand, and your books.



10 (Practically) Cringe-less Self-Promo Ideas 

1) Start weekly Twitter chats with readers.

2) Keyword your blog posts.

3) Create a monthly newsletter with news of upcoming events.

4) Post pictures of fans reading your book.

5) Host a book release party.  (Don’t forget the canapés!)

6) Create a Meet the Author or Writer Meetup group.

7) Provide a book link in your email signature.

8) Write magazine articles that your niche audience might read.

9) Post short stories on your blog.

10) Contact your alma mater. They might be willing to do a story on you.


Now put down the salmon mousse canapé and go sell yourself like a Gold Rush harlot, you brilliant author you!
 (Publishers Weekly, May 2, 2016)